Sparking the Northern Ireland economy

Sparking the Northern Ireland economy

Recently Northern Ireland has proved itself to be a hotbed of talent and expertise for professional services firms.

Firms that are well established in the region such as Deloitte and PwC have significantly expanded their operations, and a flood of foreign direct investment has seen firms such as Baker McKenzie, CME Group, Citi, NYSE, and Allen and Overy, choose to locate major parts of their business in Belfast. These investment and location decisions have been heavily influenced by the high quality education system in Northern Ireland, and the pool of highly skilled and talented graduates produced by the local universities.

Ulster University Business School prides itself in working in partnership with business to ensure an optimal alignment between the teaching and research programmes that it delivers, and the knowledge, skills and expertise required by employers. This is clearly reflected in a major talent development partnership between the Business School and Deloitte. As part of a multi-million pound expansion programme and to support a growth target of over 700 employees in Belfast by 2018, Deloitte’s requirement for highly skilled business technology school leavers and graduates has risen dramatically.

To meet this requirement, the firm approached the Business School at Ulster University to explore the possibility of developing an innovative BSc Business Technology degree that would be suitable for school leavers, and tailored to meet the needs of a rapidly changing professional services sector. The new degree has become an integral element of Deloitte’s Belfast Talent Strategy, targeting the growth in numbers of school leavers and graduates joining the firm. The ‘BrightStart’ programme aims to develop school leavers into valuable consultants. Over a five-year period, learners balance their time between on-site client work, tutor-led skills development and study for their degree. BrightStarts are highly accomplished school leavers who have achieved good ‘A’ levels. They are recruited by Deloitte to work in the business and simultaneously study on a part-time basis for their degree.

Striking features of the partnership with Deloitte are the flexibility, agility and innovation in the University’s response and multi-disciplinary programme offering, coupled with the development of a platform for conducting world leading research. The design and development of the programme has provided an opportunity to incorporate world class knowledge and research expertise provided by the university academics, together with the highest standards of professional practice provided by expert consultants. Furthermore, supported by the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the BrightStart programme qualifies as a Higher Level Apprenticeship and is an exceptional example of talent development and the multiple benefits of university-business collaboration.

Jackie Henry, Office Senior Partner for Deloitte in Northern Ireland said:

“Our BrightStart programme is a new approach to developing industry-ready consultants with the skills and experience to make an immediate impact in our business. Our partnership with Ulster University has enabled us to jointly design a degree course that meets our exacting learning needs and provides the flexibility to work within our demanding business model. This innovative programme is a key element of our growth strategy, and our partnership with Ulster University is helping us to develop at pace, the high calibre of talent that we require to be successful.”

The BrightStart programme is an initiative designed to actively support talent development and support regional economic growth in Northern Ireland. It is also a clear illustration of the multiple benefits of university-business collaboration. These include: embedding the latest business practice into degree programmes; expanding a network that fosters high quality research; and creating opportunities for academics to work in business, and for business practitioners to enhance the quality of the student experience through bringing real life practice to the classroom.

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